Kyle Davie, Correspondent
On Thursday, February 6, the JSU men’s basketball team traveled to Southeastern Missouri State University to play the Redhawks. The Gamecocks lost the contest by four points with a final score of 76-72. The following Saturday, the Gamecocks then faced off against the University of Tennessee-Martin that resulted in a much-needed victory for the Gamecocks with a final score of 75-61.
On Thursday’s game, the Gamecocks came out flat, went down early and found themselves down by double digits multiple times throughout the game. Nonetheless, the Gamecocks never gave up.
When the lead reached 16 points in the first half, freshman guard Marek Welsch responded by willing in a deep three-pointer just shy of the half-court line to cut the lead to 13 as the half expired.
The second half began much like the first half as the Redhawks saw the lead go as high as 18 points before the Gamecocks were finally able to turn things around. A swarming full-court press helped to slow down the Redhawk offense and led to quick points for the Gamecock offense.
Two freshmen, Welsch and forward Juwan Perdue helped to lead the comeback and the Gamecocks went on a big 24-9 run from the 11-minute mark in the second half to the two minute mark, which cut the lead to just three points.
Some ill-timed missed free throws and empty offensive possessions eventually let the Redhawks add on and hold their lead for the rest of the game, securing their first Ohio Valley Conference win of the season.
The loss pushed the Gamecocks record to 9-15 overall and 4-7 in conference play. The disappointment would not sit for long as the team had a quick turnaround in preparation for Saturday’s game against UT Martin where the Gamecocks played much better than they had just a few days before and led for almost the entire contest.
The Gamecocks held UT Martin, known for their high-powered offense, to their lowest point total of the season. UT Martin turned the ball over thirteen times, ten in the first half alone and finished with only 20 first half points. The Gamecocks defense also smothered UT Martin’s shooters all night as they shot at only 36 percent from the field and just 28 percent from three point range.
Sophomore guard De’Torrion Ware led the Gamecocks with 22 points and shot over 50 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the perimeter. Meanwhile, Junior forward Kayne Henry was also a physical presence in the paint all game long and finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Henry’s efforts in both the SEMO and UT Martin game resulted in his selection as the OVC Newcomer of the Week (17.5 ppg, 8.5 reb) for the third time this season.
The win put the Gamecocks at 5-7 in conference play so far and 10-15 overall this season. The Gamecocks travel to Tennessee this week to play both Tennessee Tech and Belmont. With only six games left before postseason play, every game is important now as the Gamecocks try to hold on to and possibly advance their sixth place spot in the OVC standings.